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Green group blows cold on Guangdong offshore wind farms

Guangdong’s plan for a major increase in green power capacity from offshore wind farms has environmental activists worried over potential harm to the southern province’s marine ecosystems.

The Guangdong Development and Reform Commission recently called for work to have started or been completed on at least 12 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by late 2020 – six times a goal it previously set last year.

But Guangdong’s aggressive push toward cleaner, more renewable wind power could come at the expense of protecting the marine environment, the Guangzhou-based Cross-Border Environment Concern Association (CECA) told Caixin.

Many planned wind power projects off the coast of Guangdong include cables that would cut through ecological “red zones,” according to CECA. The non-governmental organization has been studying the ecological impact of offshore wind power projects since 2014.

Wind farms designed with cables cutting through these zones, which are delineated by the government, include a China Three Gorges Corp. project near Yangxi county, and three projects near the city of Yangjiang run separately by Guangdong Yudean Group Co. Ltd., China General Nuclear Power Group Corp., and the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group.

Over a quarter of the marine area surrounding Guangdong is classified as red zones by the provincial government, which said in October that it was splitting zones into “forbidden” and “restricted” areas. In forbidden zones, land reclamation and all other activities that may damage the marine ecosystem are prohibited. In restricted zones, only land reclamation is banned.

Some offshore wind power projects will have a serious impact on precious fishery resources, and will damage the environment, CECA said in a document sent to Caixin. CECA’s director of research Zhang Jiawei cited the 2015 death of a Chinese white dolphin near Guangdong’s Zhuhai Guishan Offshore Wind Farm, which is only 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away from the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin National Nature Reserve.

Most of the ecological impact from offshore wind farms is caused during the construction phase, according to a paper by Zheng Leifu, a member of a technical research organization affiliated with the China Three Gorges Corp. During construction, sediment concentration increases in the area surrounding the construction site, resulting in lower levels of oxygen, and the dispersal of substances harmful to marine organisms, according to Zheng’s paper.

Caixin contacted the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic Fishery Administration for comment Tuesday, but the administration’s representative said they were still in the process of understanding the situation.